Lollardry


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Lollardry

(lŏl`yo͝ordrē) or

Lollardy,

medieval English movement for ecclesiastical reform, led by John WyclifWyclif, Wycliffe, Wickliffe, or Wiclif, John
, c.1328–1384, English religious reformer. A Yorkshireman by birth, Wyclif studied and taught theology and philosophy at Oxford.
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, whose "poor priests" spread his ideas about the countryside in the late 14th cent. The church in England was ridden with abuses, especially in the ownership and management of great ecclesiastical properties, and its apparent wealth stood in stark contrast to the miserable poverty of most of the common people. Wyclif's central doctrine of evangelical poverty was close to the actual conditions of the people and gave form to widespread discontent with the church. The Great Schism (1378) had also served to deepen the general disillusionment and to foster the belief, taught by Wyclif, that the church had surrendered its divine calling. The Bible, which a man could interpret for himself, was set up as the only reliable rule of faith and standard of holiness. Wyclif supplied his bands of preachers with portions of his translation of the Bible.

The most complete statement of the Lollard creed is in the document commonly known as the Conclusions, presented to Parliament in 1395. It denied transubstantiation; it condemned the use of sacramentals, images, prayers for the dead, and auricular confession; it spoke out against all war; and it attacked clerical celibacy and the chastity vows of nuns as unnatural. At its peak just before the turn of the century, Lollardry appealed to members of the middle and upper classes as well as to those of the lower; Oxford became an intellectual center of Lollardry.

Severe repressive measures began with the accession (1399) of Henry IV. The statute De haeretico comburendo [on the burning of the heretic] was passed by Parliament in 1401, but burnings at the stake were actually rare. Under persecution the Lollards tended to fanaticism, and a petty rebellion broke out among followers of Sir John OldcastleOldcastle, Sir John,
1378?–1417, English leader of Lollardry. He married the heiress of Lord Cobham in 1408 and was known as "the good Lord Cobham." Under the rule of Henry IV he performed valuable military service, especially in Wales, where he became a friend of the
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. The rebellion was easily put down (1414), and Oldcastle was executed (1417). There was another uprising, again easily suppressed, in 1431, but stricter suppression drove the movement underground, where it survived until the 16th cent. The alarm of the clergy in England over the Lutheran doctrines was partly caused by a fear that Lollardry would be revived.

It is difficult to state how much Lollardry actually encouraged the English Reformation. Undoubtedly it weakened the hold of the church on the people, and the popular use of the Bible helped to stimulate the later movement. Finally, although Lollardry knew nothing of Martin Luther's doctrine of justification by faith, it did in effect proclaim the direct responsibility of the individual soul to God—the essential idea of the ReformationReformation,
religious revolution that took place in Western Europe in the 16th cent. It arose from objections to doctrines and practices in the medieval church (see Roman Catholic Church) and ultimately led to the freedom of dissent (see Protestantism).
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.

Bibliography

See J. Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation in England (4 vol., 1908–13; repr. 1968); J. A. F. Thomson, The Later Lollards, 1414–1520 (1965).

References in periodicals archive ?
Lollardry was revived and re-born in the 1500s as the Protestant Reformation, which began without (and later with) royal backing.
While one could wish for much more analysis of Lollard rhetoric, Bostick's appreciation of the special logic of apocalyptic Lollardry is insightful and coherent.
As well as confirming (contra Katherine Firth, The Apocalyptic Tradition in Reformation Britain, 1530-1645 [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979]) that apocalypticism in the English Reformation was by no means a Lutheran import, they show something of the sophisticated literacy necessary for Lollardry to have made so much progress in England even in the fourteenth century.
The historical Oldcastle was not, of course, either Protestant or Puritan, but Foxe, Bale, and Holinshed present his Lollardry in such terms.
The final part of the book examines emerging perspectives on these issues in the rapidly changing circumstances of the sixteenth century, amongst which was the increasing impact of Lollardry.